If you know what good writing is and aren’t a squealing tween or teenage girl with hearts in her eyes, then maybe you may not want to admit you have read all the books of Stephenie Meyer’s breakout hit the Twilight series and have seen all five movies they’re based on. I’m going to make a confession to all you GFN readers––I have read all the books and have seen all the movies. I might feel a little embarrassed, but I was genuinely curious about the series. I’ll also admit I didn’t find the first film and first book all that bad either.
If for some reason you’ve been living in the Ice Age and have not heard of the Twilight series (though I think that’s impossible at this point), the story revolves around teenager Bella Swan who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. As Bella tries to adjust to her new life in this seemingly quiet little town, her path collides with the beautiful and very mysterious Edward Cullen. Bella suspects there is something very unusual about Edward and the rest of his “siblings,” who also attend the same high school, and eventually discovers that the Cullen family are in fact vampires. And so begins the star-crossed love affair between Bella and Edward.
Around the time the books and movies were really popular, I was clearly not the target audience for this series. All the teenage angst and dreamy innocence was well behind me. Regardless, I’ve always been a romantic at heart and I can’t refuse a good love story. Well, okay, maybe the Twilight series isn’t the best love story out there. It’s easily not one of the best written ones for a YA series anyway. The further I got into reading the books, the more irritated I became with Bella as a character and Meyer’s ridiculous knack for writing pages and pages of how beautiful Edward was. I get it, Bella. Edward is gorgeous. Can we move on now?!
Once I finished reading all four books, I can understand why young teenage girls (and some of their mothers) would love the book series. It has romance and two hunky guys fighting over one self-proclaimed plain Jane girl. The only problem is Stephenie Meyer is a less than above average writer. Not only does she feel the need to constantly remind her readers of how beautiful Edward is (you know, just in case we forgot five DAMN pages ago), but she avoids a good story climax and has everyone living a happily-ever-after. You might be wondering what’s so wrong with a happily-ever-after at the end of a book series, but I’ll explain what’s wrong with her version of happily-ever-after.
In the final book of the series, Breaking Dawn, Meyer builds up this big showdown between the maker of the rules for all vampires living known as the Volturi against the Cullens, who are protecting the miraculous birth of Bella and Edward’s child, who the Volturi believe to be a threat to their kind. When it is explained that Bella and Edward’s daughter is no threat to the Volturi and it’s all a huge misunderstanding, the Volturi walk away and leave the Cullens, and anyone else who allied themselves with the Cullens, alone to live their lives in happy, kumbaya bliss forever and an eternity.
A buildup for a big fight only to have it tossed aside and settled in a matter of seconds is not good storytelling. It’s lazy and unrealistic. Nothing in life is without conflict and no good story can operate without some kind of conflict. Conflict makes a story more interesting and it throws your characters into situations where they have to figure out how to solve it. Maybe it might end without any sacrifices or maybe it won’t. Either way, you want to see how your favorite characters would handle themselves in a dire situation.
Meyer’s penchant for everyone and their mother getting a happy ending is another aspect of her storytelling technique that bothers me. Characters like Jacob should have walked away at the end of Twilight with his heart a little broken over losing Bella to Edward, but happy to still have her as a friend. Instead, Meyer conveniently gives Jacob a new love he can be with and it just so happens to be Bella and Edward’s daughter Reneesme. If you feel a little lost with this plot point and you haven’t read the books or watched the films, just do a quick Google search if you care. This is one particular plot point I didn’t like and I also found downright icky.
The author doesn’t have it in her to let some of her characters walk away with disappointment. Life is full of disappointments and we don’t always get what we want. The fact that Meyer wraps everything up in a nice bow for every, single one of her characters is fake and a forced way to close out a book series.
Last week, I watched the movie The Host on Netflix, which is another book turned movie that is written by Stephenie Meyer. I haven’t read the book and I’m not interested in picking it up either. Watching the entire movie gave me a pretty good idea of what I would expect from the book itself. Her favorite storytelling techniques are all there again––anti-climatic showdown with the villain and everyone gets a happily-ever-after when the circumstances point more towards a bittersweet ending for certain characters.
Maybe Meyer prefers to have her mostly female readers indulge in a fantasy world where everything is solved within thirty seconds or less and everyone has someone to love when their first choice isn’t available. I like escaping into a fantasy world just like anybody else who wants a break from real life, but it has to be plausible. Her happy endings are farfetched and far too convenient to feel natural. Her main characters are robbed of having a good fight with the villain. Some of the best stories out there involve a fight between good vs. evil. We want our heroes/heroines to struggle a little bit before they emerge victorious. It builds both strength and character. Such an easy take down of the baddie requiring little to no effort is boring and a waste of time.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter reigns supreme when it comes to writing a book series for children that allows them to escape into a fantasy, while also giving them a balance of the good and the bad. The happy and the sad. Everything unfolds in a realistic way that is engaging and hardly ever feels flat. We even get an epic sized showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort which has been built up since the start of the series. Harry’s victory wouldn’t be so satisfying if Rowling decided to make it extremely easy to kill off Voldemort.
Rowling doesn’t sugar coat life, but she also knows life isn’t always so dreary. This is why when Rowling ended Harry Potter the way she did, the happy ending was natural and less forced. Did everyone have a happy ending? No. Some people died and some were left with both physical and emotional scars that the characters will take with them for the rest of their lives, but that’s exactly how it should be.
Meyer almost seems to imply in her writing and how her characters deal with situations that we should be afraid of conflict. Or that in a perfect world there will never be any conflict. Everyone gets what they want or close to it and are happy. I don’t think this is the best message to put out there for young readers. When you get older, we have to be prepared for life’s hard knocks. Life is rough and you’ll get pushed down many times before you get back up again, but you do eventually get up. When you get up, try again, and then succeed you look back on all those struggles and appreciate where you are now and how you got there.
Stephenie Meyer can keep her candy coated fantasy world where everything is perfect and no one is ever sad. I much rather escape into a fantasy where everything isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. You’ll be just fine. It worked for Harry Potter and he still got his happy ending. It was a rough ride to get to his happy ending, but it was hard earned.